While legal issues affecting the fashion industry may not get the same coverage as other industries, its position as a multi-billion-dollar industry means that it faces its share of litigation. A unique issue affecting luxury fashion houses are counterfeit goods, which they go to endless means to try to stop. This usually occurs when luxury brands discover their goods are being replicated at a much lower cost. As a result, trademark infringement lawsuits are ripe in the fashion industry. However, other types of lawsuits can include civil rights, antitrust, and labor. The following is an analysis of luxury fashion house litigation in U.S. district courts from January 2020 to October 15, 2021.
Italian luxury fashion house Prada was founded in 1913 and specializes in leather handbags, shoes, ready-to-wear, perfumes, and other accessories. Prada has faced a handful of lawsuits from January 2020 to October 15, 2021. Three of these lawsuits occurred in the Eastern District of New York and one occurred in the Eastern District of California. Prada is a defendant in these four lawsuits. Two lawsuits are for antitrust (although they have since been consolidated), one is for civil rights relating to job discrimination and one is for civil rights regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. Prada is represented by Baker McKenzie in 2020 and Morrison Mahoney in 2021.
Italian luxury fashion house Gucci, which was founded in 1921 with a focus on handbags, ready-to-wear, shoes, fragrance and makeup, sued over counterfeit goods being sold on Facebook and Instagram in April of this year.
Gucci is involved in 15 lawsuits during this time period of which it is the defendant in 73% of the cases. The case types include employment, trademark, and ADA most frequently alongside antitrust, Fair Labor Standards Act and patent. The top courts for its lawsuits are the Southern District of Florida, the Northern District of California, the Northern District of Illinois, the Central District of California and the Eastern District of New York.
Gucci has been represented by a variety of law firms. Both 2020 and 2021 have seen Stephen M. Gaffigan represent the company for trademark lawsuits, while thus far Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has only represented Gucci in 2020 for an antitrust lawsuit. Meanwhile, new law firms representing Gucci in 2021 include Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; Davis Wright Tremaine; Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu; and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, representing Gucci in trademark infringement and employment discrimination lawsuits. Of the 15 lawsuits, Gucci is the defendant in 11 of the lawsuits and the plaintiff in four of the lawsuits.
Luxury Italian fashion house Valentino was founded in 1960, focusing on shoes, bags, and ready-to-wear. The parent company for Valentino is Valentino Fashion Group, with subsidiaries Valentino USA and the Italian wing of the company Valentino S.P.A.
Valentino USA has been sued four times from January 2020 to October 15, 2021, in U.S. district courts. One lawsuit was for racial discrimination and three for Americans with Disabilities Act violations for alleged website noncompliance. Two lawsuits were settled, another was voluntarily dismissed, and one is still pending.
In June 2020 in conjunction with Amazon, it filed a lawsuit against a third-party retailer for selling counterfeit shoes mimicking the Valentino Garavani Rockstud shoes.
Hoffman Larin & Agnetti, P.A. as well as Morrison Cohen LLP and Moeller Barbaree LLP represent Valentino in its lawsuits. These lawsuits occur in the Southern District of Florida, the Eastern District of California and the Northern District of Georgia.
Meanwhile, Valentino S.P.A. – the Italian business entity of the fashion house – has only had one lawsuit filed in U.S. district court.
Ferragamo is an Italian luxury goods company specializing in shoes, leather goods, and ready-to-wear. In February, Ferragamo and Amazon teamed up to combat counterfeit belts on the e-commerce giant’s platform. The lawsuit was filed against four individuals and three entities, primarily based in China, for allegedly selling these counterfeit belts.
Ferragamo has been involved in three lawsuits during this time period. Two of these lawsuits occurred in the Western District of Washington in February of this year for trademark infringement where Ferragamo was represented by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. These cases are set before Judge Ricardo Martinez.
In December 2020, Ferragamo filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York for trademark infringement. Ferragamo was represented by The Gioconda Law Group. The case has since been voluntarily dismissed.
French luxury fashion house Chanel was founded in 1910 and specializes in women’s ready-to-wear and luxury goods and accessories. Unlike other luxury fashion houses, Chanel has been involved in a large number of lawsuits, often as the plaintiff suing individuals and entities for trademark infringement. Most of the time, the defendant is a website incorporating Chanel’s name, such as “replicachanelshop.com.” Additionally, other types of lawsuits that Chanel is involved in include ADA claims, product liability issues, employment law, as well as patent claims. Chanel has seen consistent filings, with most months having at least one new federal case.
31 out of the 42 lawsuits occurred in the Southern District of Florida, five occurred in the Southern District of New York, and two in the Eastern District of California. The Central District of California, the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of North Carolina each saw one lawsuit involving Chanel.
Chanel is represented by a variety of law firms; while some have remained the same from 2020 to 2021, there were some changes over time. For example, Stephen M. Gaffigan and Seyfarth Shaw represent Chanel in both years. New additions in 2021 include Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla, Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zisu, as well as Dorsey & Whitney. Meanwhile, MG+M the Law Firm and Armstrong Teasdale have yet to represent Chanel in 2021.
French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854 and is known for its monogrammed handbags.
The top courts for litigation involving Louis Vuitton are the Southern District of Florida, the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of New York. The top case types are trademark, civil rights, ADA, and antitrust.
Louis Vuitton’s litigation is split between a few different entities, such as Louis Vuitton Malletier, represented by Stephen M. Gaffigan as well as Baker & Hostetler, and Louis Vuitton USA, represented by Holland & Knight, Barrack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg, and Winston & Strawn.
The Italian luxury brand Versace is known for its ready-to-wear and haute couture. Versace has been involved in 15 lawsuits during this time period.
The lawsuits are filed as trademark, civil rights – jobs, civil rights – ADA, FLSA, and patent cases, among others. These lawsuits are most often in the Southern District of Florida or the Southern District of New York.
As with other houses, subsidiaries represent a portion of the overall Versace litigation. Versace USA is the defendant in all cases it is involved in and is represented by Greenberg Traurig.
Versace USA Inc.
Meanwhile, Gianni Versace S.R.L. was involved in four federal lawsuits in 2020, where it sued various entities for trademark infringement. It was represented by Stephen M. Gaffigan as well as Lee Law.
Common Law Firms
Stephen M. Gaffigan, P.A. represented a large portion of the aforementioned luxury fashion houses, particularly for trademark and other intellectual property issues. Other law firms representing more than one luxury fashion house are Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu as well as Davis Wright Tremaine. Furthermore, lawsuits tend to occur in New York, California, or Florida.
Luxury fashion houses are going to great lengths to stop counterfeit versions of their products, but are themselves being sued largely over ADA violations and employment. The approaches of different fashion houses vary; Chanel, for example, cracked down on trademark infringement, while others were more selective. Retailers like Amazon can also be involved in these kinds of lawsuits. Fashion industry counterfeiting claims are sure to continue as more and more goods are sold on different online platforms.